Teen Trial to Force State to Address Climate Change Opens in Montana

Jun 13, 2023

Thought Question: Describe a time when you stood up for something you believed in. How did it feel?

For the first time ever, a trial is asking if a healthy climate is a right protected by the constitution. 16 young people have sued the state of Montana. They say the state hasn't done enough about climate change.

The young people suing range from 5 to 22 years old. They say it's clear the climate is getting worse. They believe they will suffer the most from the government ignoring this issue. However, state lawyers say Montana doesn't contribute much to greenhouse gasses.

“It's hard to watch, like, the things that I love, like, get depleted slowly,” Badge Busse, 15, told NPR. He is one of the plaintiffs and an avid fisherman

The trial started Monday. This was after state lawmakers  adopted pro-fossil-fuel-friendly measures. Among them was a bill that limits efforts by local governments to support renewable energy. Another made it more costly to file suits to stop coal, gas, and oil projects.  

This case is called Held v. Montana. It is different from other similar cases that failed. The Montana constitution says the government must maintain a "clean and healthful environment." Other states have similar rules. 

Supporters of Held think if they win in Montana, they can win elsewhere. 

“It will change the future of the planet if courts will start declaring the conduct of government (for ignoring climate change) unconstitutional,” Julia Olson told The Associated Press. She is the founder of Our Children’s Trust. 

This group represents the young people in Montana and in a federal lawsuit in Oregon. That case, Juliana v. US, was held up by the US Supreme Court. A federal judge recently ruled it can go to trial.

Photo by Tony Reid courtesy of Unsplash. 

Based on the details in the story, the plaintiffs in the Montana case would _______ with the statement that their right to a liveable state is protected by the constitution. (Common Core RI.5.9; RI.6.9)
a. strongly agree
b. somewhat agree
c. somewhat disagree
d. strongly disagree
For more formative assessments, visit thejuicelearning.com to start a free trial.

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